Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Harry Potter Studio Tour experience

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If, like me, you enjoy visiting the world of Harry Potter, either in the movies or the books, and you find yourself with an evening to kill in the UK, I highly recommend you plan this evening to kill a little in advance and get yourself some tickets to the Harry Potter Studio Tour experience. And I really do mean plan a little in advance, as the tickets do seem to sell out quite quickly in advance, depending on the time of the year. A general admission ticket is, at the time of writing, £29 for an adult and £21.50 for a child, but I would really suggest spending a little bit extra (£38.95 for an adult or £31.45 for a child) to get the full package that includes a souvenir guide and a digital guide too. We were lucky enough to be driven to the park, but there are public transport options.

The thing to remember is that this is not an amusement park, but a studio tour. It is a tour of the actual studios where (most of) the films were shot. And I think this is amazing. You walk through spaces where the actors walked, and can easily recognise your favourite (and not so favourite) scenes, props, etc. I took a LOT of photos during our extended tour, these are a couple of my favourites in no particular order.

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The tour takes anywhere between 2 and 4 hours, depending on how long you spend looking at things. I could easily have spent an extra couple of hours inside, as there are a couple of exhibitions I feel I may have just glanced over, since I did not take at least 100 pictures from each angle. But then, as a fan, I think no amount of time is enough.

And then, of course, the tour ends in the gift shop, so make sure you take many many many pounds with you as you can buy anything from small fridge magnets to wands and capes, and you really do also want to sample the Butterbeer.

Excellent tour, excellent day out.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wincanton and the Discworld Emporium

DSCF5469I started reading Terry Pratchet’s Discworld series of books when I was 17, which was a very, very long time ago indeed. And you can say I am something of a fan of his work, so, when I discovered the existence of the Discworld Emporium, I knew I had to make a small journey, you may even almost call it a pilgrimage, to the town of Wincanton in southern Somerset in England.

Wincanton is a little bit of a challenge to get to using only public transport, but not completely impossible, and well worth the effort too. You can take the train through to Templecombe from London Waterloo, and then from there hope to strike it lucky and find a cab to take you the rest of the way, which is between £12 and £15.

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DSCF5467Of course, once we got there, I fell in love with the small town charm and the English country side. And did I mention the Discworld Emporium?

The Discworld books, and the other Pterry works, have formed a large part of my life for a very, very long time, and much of how I see the world is either influenced by the books or reflected in the books. So, going to the town of Wincanton and the Discworld emporium was, for me, a little bit like going to holy ground, a sacred space of sorts.

Despite having been a little bit of a Discworld fan for the better part of 30 years, I haven’t really done the typical fan thing and reached out to other fans, either on the internet or the outernet, nor have I been to conventions or meetups or the like. So meeting the lovely folk at the DE was both overwhelmingly intimidating and a little bit like meeting old friends for the first time. If you are lucky, like I was, to visit on a quiet day, you can spend hours chatting and laughing, mostly laughing. If you are a fan, be sure to take LOTS and LOTS of money, because you will want everything. I spent a good three hours absolutely mesmerised by every nook and cranny of the store, while my patient husband photographed everything – because I was simply too spellbound to take a single photograph.

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And I got a very special shopping bag. You may say it is one of a kind, really.

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If you’re a fan, there is no way you can visit the UK without visiting Wincanton.

After our extensive visit to the Discworld Emporium, we walked around the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul. Yes, we do have a thing for churches and the like, don’t we?

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We just walked around the outside, really not wanting to intrude, but found some of the old gravestones really interesting.

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The date on this one reads 1826.

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And on this one, it looks like 1865.

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And, of course, no visit to anywhere beautiful would be complete without the obligatory picture of a doorway. I am particularly fond of this doorway.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Day in Windsor

As we are both big Lego fans, we decided to try and include a visit to a Legoland as part of each of our travels. So, when we visited the UK, we had to include a trip to Legoland Windsor.

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Our journey to Windsor started at Paddington Station, where we took the train to Windsor and Eton station via Slough. From there, bus shuttles run every 20 or so minutes – you can check the scheduling and pricing on their website.

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The resort is beautiful and looks out over the Windsor valley, with the Castle in the distance.

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My favourite store was the Lego Star Wars store, located right at the beginning of the journey through the resort. Be sure to walk through the whole exhibition for a wonderful experience.

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A walk through the resort takes you on a meandering pathway through various worlds, from Vikings to Egypt and beyond.

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The other big attraction at Legoland is the mini land, with presentations of various famous landmarks and cities. Many of the presentations also include some animations, so be sure to press every button and keep a close eye on each item in the presentation.

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If you have some spare time after visiting Legoland, be sure to visit Windsor itself and Windsor castle too.

We visited the parish church while walking around, which dates from 1822. The church has some beautiful stained glass windows, and many tributes to lost loved ones.

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Windsor Castle is the official residence of the Queen and the largest occupied castle in the world. If you can spare around £20 per person, you can take a leisurely tour of the castle and gardens. We happened to, coincidentally, visit Windsor Castle the day that prince George was born and there was much excitement in the air.

The castle and gardens are beautiful. We also wandered through the state rooms, but were not allowed to take photographs inside, which is really a pity, and the amount of history crammed into each nook and cranny of these well, stately rooms was overwhelming. It was also near neigh impossible to take photos without tourists in the way, but here are some of my favourites.

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